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Phillies' fifth-starter competition heats up

Phillies' fifth-starter competition heats up

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Charlie Manuel insisted Thursday that the Phillies haven't talked about the fifth spot in their rotation.

He insisted they don't have a timetable to make that decision, either.

But the decision is near. In fact, they could have a real good talk about it after left-hander Jamie Moyer faces the Yankees on Friday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Fla.

Right-hander Kyle Kendrick, who is competing with Moyer for the job, impressed again Thursday in an 8-7 victory over the Astros at Bright House Field. Kendrick struggled with his command early and arguably had his worst stuff of the spring, but allowed five hits, two runs (one earned run) and two walks in 5 2/3 innings. He struck out one.

Kendrick has an impressive 1.37 ERA after five Grapefruit League appearances. Moyer has a 3.86 ERA in four spring appearances, which includes one Grapefruit League and three "B" game starts.

Big night for Moyer on Friday?

"I don't know," Manuel said. "I don't think so. Not really."

The club announced on March 31 last year that Chan Ho Park had edged J.A. Happ for the fifth spot in the rotation. It would not be a surprise to see the club make this year's announcement about the same time, with Kendrick scheduled to make his final Grapefruit League start on Tuesday.

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The Phils have said Kendrick must beat out Moyer for the job, but they also have said they will not look at Spring Training numbers to make that decision.

"Kyle is throwing the ball fine," pitching coach Rich Dubee said. "You know the biggest difference in Kyle? First of all, he has a great presence now. The first two innings, he had no tempo, looked completely lost. He's like everybody else right now. They're a little dead and tired -- heavy legged. Their arms are weary. Last year he would have panicked and had no chance of surviving five innings. ... This year he found a way to get through it. He refocused, got back down in the strike zone, starting getting ahead [in the count] a little more. And he survived it."

Sounds like a nice endorsement, but why won't they look at Spring Training numbers in their decision?

"I'm pleased with the way Kyle is throwing the ball, but I also know there's a track record on the other guy," Dubee said.

Kendrick is eager to learn his fate.

"Obviously, you want to hear something, but it's going to come down to the wire, I think," Kendrick said. "They don't have to make a decision. Like I've said all spring, it's out of my hands. I'm trying not to worry about it."

Todd Zolecki is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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